The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night voted unanimously to ratify a new 3-year contract for the town’s public works employees. It’s a contract Chairman John Rooney characterized as a “tremendously beneficial” one for the town.
Rooney said the union agreed to changes in their health care plan that will save both the town and the employees money. Public works employees will see lower premiums under the plan, and the town will implement new benefits programs such as flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement accounts, and an opt-out program.
Changes to the health insurance plan will also result in the reduction of post-employment benefit liabilities equating to $850K, Rooney said.
Under the agreement, all employees will receive a cost of living salary adjustment of 0.5% during the first year of the contract, and no cost of living adjustment during the subsequent two years. Some employees will also receive 2% step increases.
Voters at town meeting next month will be asked to fund the first year of the contract at a cost of $17,450, which works out to a payment of $3.91 for the average taxpayer.
Rooney said concessions were made on both sides, and he praised Town Administrator Mark Purple and the union for reaching a “fair and equitable” deal.
“I congratulate the public works union for coming to the table early, for their ability to appreciate and understand the fiscal situation of the town, and for their willingness to make concessions,” Rooney said.
The public works contract is one of four municipal union contracts set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, and the first to be ratified. The town is also negotiating with the police and fire unions. The fourth contract set to expire is the clerical union, but Rooney announced this week members have filed with the Labor Relations Board to decertify their union. A ballot vote of union members is expected sometime this spring.
Teachers are in the second year of a 3-year contract. Rooney told the K-8 School Committee, which attended a portion of the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, that negotiations being conducted this year with the municipal unions should serve as a model for negotiations that will happen next year with the teachers union.
“I think it is very, very important that the financial condition of the town have a prime role in those discussions,” Rooney told school committee members. “We need to slow down the rate of increases that have historically been given. The town is setting an example with the negotiations going on now.”